What’s the difference between the real Ofsted inspection and a ‘mock inspection’?

As a nursery manager, receiving the call from Ofsted that they will be with you tomorrow for your inspection conjures up feelings of nausea, utter dread, and anxiety.

The question hangs in the air, was it easier when they just sprang the visit on you? At least you had no option but to just react to the situation. I wonder if it is worse now that nursery managers know the day before? It allows for those feelings to have time to develop and usually a sleepless night. I have heard of nurseries reacting and preparations for the visit to turn into a scene from DIY SOS!

Receiving the call from Ofsted on a Friday is even worse, it gives you far too long over the weekend to live with those feelings, to work up every scenario in your mind, and let’s be honest, you rework everything you automatically know. The panic sets in and you begin thinking about what more you could do, which makes you overthink everything when all you should be doing is concentrating on what you do every day, what you already know because you are a professional.

How should it be?

If I had any say in the decision, I think that Ofsted visits should go back to being unannounced. Pre-announcing the visit does not help anyone. We all become anxious, don’t sleep, begin to question ourselves. I know of settings where the managers have been there all night, titivating rooms, adjusting displays, making sure the puzzles have all their pieces. That is not the reality of the day-to-day operation.

How Quality Improvement Audits (QIA) help

Many consultancies offer mock inspections which give nursery managers the opportunity to have a practice run and receive pointers to work on in advance. At Jigsaw we offer a QIA. I have an issue with the word mock (this goes back to my school days). For some people, mocks are just as bad as the real thing and cause as much anxiety and stress.

A QIA is more than a mock inspection and as a part of the process we will:

  •         Arrive early.
  •         We give the setting a call the day before, to introduce ourselves and do the necessary checks (covid cases included at present)
  •         We conduct a learning walk
  •         We ask questions around safeguarding, partnerships etc
  •         We conduct joint observations

Most of all we give feedback as we go. It is important that you can see what I can see as the inspector. As a former Ofsted inspector, it is important to me to offer advice and ask why you are doing something one way and if you have thought about doing it another way. I wanted to offer managers advice on how they could improve and make it better for them, their teams, and the children. I also wanted to give managers praise when they are doing something outstanding that required a WOW moment.

At Jigsaw we have three inspectors conducting QIA’s who travel across the UK. Our mission is for you to use us so that you receive exactly what you need to go into a real inspection with confidence. You can always ask us the questions you are too scared to ask an inspector. Arguing with an inspector won’t get you far but during the QIA, you can challenge us, and we will help you to be able to articulate your point or demonstrate it to an inspector in a more productive way.

What does the QIA audit give you?

We want to provide you with an audit that provides conversation. Your report from us will include areas for recommendations.

But the main reason behind creating the QIA was because I was so tortured by hearing tales from managers about the stress and anxiety an inspection caused, I wanted to offer a solution so that they become more familiar with the inspection process and offer somewhere they could turn to for help and advice beforehand with an opportunity to develop.

The impact of the pandemic has left many settings struggling and firefighting. Local Authorities don’t have the workforce to go out and help with that, which is where our service bridges that gap, I want everyone to be able to shine.

A fresh pair of eyes always offers a new perspective.

An Ofsted inspection gives you one day to shine and show off how great you and your team really are and the difference and progress that you make to each child within your setting.

What we do is to get you comfortable with the inspection process, practice it, take ownership of it, and be prepared.

If you would like to know more about our QIA please email the team at admin@jigsaweyc.com